Monday, January 20, 2014

Mishaps at the front

During WWII visits to the front by important officials needed to be planned in advance so there would be no mishaps. However things didn’t always work out as planned…

Close to the front it was difficult to find food, so one would expect important officials to bring their own rations. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler forgot this rule, with hilarious consequences.
From ‘Walter Schellenberg: The Memoirs of Hitler's Spymaster, p75-76

On these tours we usually started out for the front at nine or ten in the morning, and would return to the train towards nightfall. We had to supply our own provisions—sandwiches, thermos flasks of hot tea, and cognac to fortify us against the increasingly cold weather. As the SS adjutants were already overburdened with other duties, it was my job to secure these provisions. One day we returned so early that a lot of our food and drink had hardly been touched. The next day we were called out early and the thermos flasks were not ready. I only had time to take what was left over from the previous day—a bottle of cognac, half-full, and two packets of sandwiches, which I had placed near a window, hoping they would remain fresh overnight. After driving for about two hours in the open car, Himmler asked for something to eat, so Gruppenfuehrer Wolff took a packet of sandwiches from me and they both began to eat. They had already got through the first packet when they happened to look at the second. The rest of the sandwiches were all covered with green mould. Himmler's face grew even greener as he tried desperately not to be sick. I quickly offered him some cognac—usually he did not drink; at the most two or three glasses of table wine—but he took a deep gulp and then, as he recovered, fixed me with a steely glance. I was prepared for the worst. 'I notice you ate none of the sandwiches yourself.' I hastened to explain, but there was a terrible look in his eyes as he thanked me for restoring his life with the cognac after having tried to poison him.
Another rule should be to visit the bathroom before going on a long trip. Even the mighty Stalin forgot this rule and paid the price!

Stalin cut off the briefing, contenting himself with giving some orders, then dismissed the generals who had to slog back to the real fray. Stalin asked if he could go further towards the fighting but Beria forbade him. He visited the hospital at Yukono, according to his bodyguards, and was depressed by so many amputees. Afterwards, he felt ill and his arthritis played up. Stalin returned by road in his armoured Packard and a convoy of security cars. Suddenly the cars stopped. 'He needed to defecate,' wrote Mikoyan, who heard the story from someone who was there. Stalin got out of the car and asked 'whether the bushes along the roadside were mined. Of course no one could give such a guarantee ... Then the Supreme Commander-in-Chief pulled down his trousers in everyone's presence.' In a metaphorical commentary on his treatment of the Soviet people, and his performance as military commander, he 'shamed himself in front of his generals and officers ... and did his business right there on the road.'

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